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All for the Love of Food!

All for the Love of Food!

Novice and experienced cooks alike gathered for The Iron Thali Cooking Competition. Bollywood beats played in the background to get the party started and the aroma of mouthwatering spices filled the air. Each participant had their very own special dish to prepare with the main ingredient being Paneer, a cheese-like substance, in the mix.

NetIP Houston held the competition Sunday, March 11, 2012, from 2 PM to 5 PM at the Madras Pavilion in Sugar Land. The organization combined its love for food and their desire for a good cause by inviting Narayanan Krishnan, CNN Hero for 2010 – a chef turned social worker, from India.

There were about 6 candidates chopping, slicing, mixing, and stirring to win the grand prize of $150. Second place received $100, and third place received $50.

Candidate Sneha Desai, whose original roots are from Singapore, decided to use her background to create a unique dish called Dragon Paneer. “It’s an Indo-Chinese dish. I am trying not to use Indian spices, but still create something spicy enough that Indians will still enjoy it,” says Sneha. “The black bean sauce/paste I’ll be using is the ingredient I am using to incorporate the Singaporean flavor.”

Inspired by his Mom, Amit Patil decided to participate and make Paneer Quesadillas. “I was originally going to use bhakri (similar to wheat bread) for the tortillas, but I’ll be using corn for the competition,” said Patil. His attempt is also to make the dishes healthy as well as tasty. “I try to make most of my dishes gluten free, and for today’s dish I will also be adding lentils (moong beans), to the mix because paneer doesn’t have too much protein,” Patil said.

Another participant, Ashoo Duggal, decided to give a Punjabi twist to his dish by making Paneer Pakoda. “My secret ingredient is using date and tamarind chutney (sauce), informed Duggal.

Winner of the Iron Thali Competition Farida Hasanali, searched for many recipes and then added her own special touch, deciding to make Paneer Stuffed Mushrooms. “I usually try to make fatty dishes, non-fatty, but that won’t be the case for today’s competition,” added Hasanali with a chuckle.

The main highlights of this mouth watering challenge was the chief guest Narayanan Krishnan, and that all proceeds from this event went towards Krishnan’s foundation, the Akshaya Trust. The Akshaya Trust is “helping the helpless of Madurai, India.” Currently Krishnan is building a home to facilitate the helpless, forsaken, mentally ill, old, sick, and destitute in India. Over 1.9 million meals have been served since Krishnan’s start in 2002 – three meals a day, every day, without interruption. “I want to save my people. That is the purpose of my life,” adds Krishnan.

The Winners of The Iron Thali Cooking Competition

1st Place was Farida Hasanali
2nd prize winner Archana Laxmisan
3rd place Ashoo Duggal

By Shruti Purohit

Photos by Kartik Subramanian.

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